BCO launches new edition of its Guide to Specification

Property industry’s ‘standards bible’ from British Council for Offices available online now

Today, the British Council for Offices (BCO) launched the latest edition of its Guide to Specification, providing guidance on industry standards for workplaces across the UK, from the analysis of occupier densities to the legal issues affecting office development.

The BCO’s landmark publication was last published in 2009, and the 2014 edition includes updated guidance on occupier densities and details on how the increasing popularity of cycling to work has impacted the specification of buildings. It also includes details on how changes to work patterns and trends translates to a reduction in the small power loads required at desks, as well as all other aspects of office specification. The Guide is now available in a new interactive online version, which is available for members to buy from the BCO website.

The authors of the 2014 Guide reviewed the recommended workplace density to take into account the ever more diverse way businesses are now using their workspaces. The report warns that if workplace density is considered in isolation, it may overstate the demands placed on building infrastructure, or result in over provision if used as the basis for design. This view has led the authors to recommend that effective density, expressed as NIA (net internal area) per person, provides a better insight into the demands on buildings.

The research conducted for the 2014 Guide found that most office space use falls between 8-13m² per person, which was reflected in the 2009 Guide, but the new guide recognises the shift to the higher density end of this scale. It also illustrates the impact of designing buildings at one person per 8m² as well as the more commonly adopted average density of 10m² per person.

This edition of the Specification includes guidance on facilities for cyclists in workplaces for the first time, recommending one cycle space per 10 staff and one shower per 100 employees, mirroring the evolving face of travel to and from the office. Currently the trend is for more men to cycle to work so the Guide recommends 60% of the facilities should be designated for men and 40% for women.

The 2014 Guide also provides updated guidance on small power loads, which follows the 2009 Guide to Specification that recommended 25 W/m². Recent research carried out for the BCO found that power consumption now rarely exceeds 19 W/m². This reduction in power demand at desks has largely been due to advances in computer equipment and new ways of working, with employees using multiple devices and more people spending less time at their desks and working flexibly. The 2014 Guide recommends an on floor distribution allowance of 20-25 W/m² depending on the density of occupation and a diversified load over 1000m² of 13-15 W/m².

Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the BCO, commented on the launch of the 2014 Guide to Specification: “As an industry we need to focus more on our customer, the employees who occupy the office day in, day out, and the diverse and ranging needs of these people. The BCO’s Guide to Specification reflects our long held view that there isn’t a one size fits all approach, and includes invaluable advice for occupiers and the latest thinking on how to make the most of offices.

“Property is a significant expense for businesses, but if it is understood properly and used efficiently it is a resource that can be optimised to deliver real benefits in employee performance through increased productivity and wellbeing.”

The 2014 Guide includes details on all aspects of office specification, including the recommended temperature for comfort conditions in both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned offices, structural loadings, key spacial design dimensions and sustainability criteria – everything required to specify a healthy, safe, efficient and productive workspace.

The authors are predominantly the same professional team that produced the 2009 edition, and the editors are Neil Pennell (Land Securities), Geoff Harris (TIAA Henderson Real Estate) and Peter Williams (AECOM).